Wyoming Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert Promises Festive Hits and Surprises
CASPER, Wyo. – Christmas music is often dominated by familiar “hits”.
However, for a conductor programming a holiday concert, balancing the familiar with a few surprises is often one of the biggest challenges of the season.
“There are quite a few things that we can hire for Christmas,” said conductor and arranger Scott O’Neil, “but once you get through that it’s kind of like ‘let’s go. we do then? “”
What O’Neil decided to do ‘next’ when asked to conduct this year’s Wyoming Symphony Holiday concert is to use many of his own unique orchestral arrangements on tunes ranging from deep cuts to the most popular.
“We tried to balance it,” he said.
“Things that are uplifting or have a sense of beauty or uniqueness, I’m going to write them down for this set and bring them to our world. “
For this Saturday’s holiday performance, the WSO will be joined by guest soloist soprano Sydney Harper, the Choral Arts Ensemble and the Casper College Chamber Singers. Zach Schneider, native of Casper and professor of drama at NCHS, will relate “It was the night before Christmas”. To minimize the risk of COVID, masks will be mandatory for everyone in the NCHS auditorium during the event, according to the WSO.
For this weekend’s performance, O’Neil chose music ranging from an arrangement of a traditional Coventry song to Mariah Carey’s mega-hit “All I Want For Christmas”, while also including many seasonal favorites. like “Oh Holy Night” and “Joy to the World”. ”
O’Neil says soloist Harper approached him to specifically arrange the 1950s Christmas classic “(Everybody’s Waitin ‘for) The Man with the Bag,” which was originally made popular by Kay Starr backed by a big band swing.
“At first I thought, ‘that’s too many saxophones; I can’t do this, ”O’Neil said. “Then I thought we could do it like a jazz orchestra. I don’t have a sax section, but I have four horns, so I can keep the harmonies and rewrite them to accompany them.
“It was a great challenge,” he said.
O’Neil is based in Colorado Springs and was a resident conductor with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which is how he came to know WSO Music Director Christopher Dragon, who now holds that position.
O’Neil, along with his duties as a guest conductor which he now focuses on, is also an accomplished arranger and writer, and over the years he has arranged and assembled numerous pieces for holiday orchestral performances. . This time of year is usually the busiest for arrangers and guest conductors because holiday shows are so popular, he said.
The task of translating music into orchestral arrangements is something O’Neil particularly enjoys.
“If you’re an artist and you’re dealing with a color palette – you could have a choir, you could have a big band, you can have a Motown band – there is no color palette more diverse than ‘an orchestra,’ said O’Neil.
O’Neil believes that many people unwittingly enjoyed orchestral music through movies or video games, but still may find it too intimidating to come to a concert hall. He sees holiday broadcasts such as Saturdays as a way to put more people at ease to attend live concerts.
“You can’t make someone like something they don’t already like; you can only convince them that they love him, ”he said. “So these concerts are an easier way to convince them, ‘hey you know what, I really like live orchestral music. “”
The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra’s holiday celebration takes place on Saturday, December 4. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. The WSO requires everyone to wear masks. A livestream of the event will be available on Sunday December 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.